The Cat’s Paw: From Aesop to Posner

March 1st, 2011

From Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in Staub v. Proctor Hospital:

The term “cat’s paw” derives from a fable conceived by Aesop, put into verse by La Fontaine in 1679, and injected into United Statesemployment discrimination law by Posner in 1990. See Shager v. Upjohn Co., 913 F. 2d 398, 405 (CA7). In the fable, a monkey induces acat by flattery to extract roasting chestnuts from the fire. After the cat has done so, burning its paws in the process, the monkey makes offwith the chestnuts and leaves the cat with nothing. A coda to the fable (relevant only marginally, if at all, to employment law) observes that the cat is similar to princes who, flattered by the king, perform serviceson the king’s behalf and receive no reward.